5-minute team building activities to increase employee engagement

Building a strong team is crucial to the success of any business. Employees are most engaged in their jobs and workplaces when they feel their employers are genuinely invested in them.

Considering that only 21% of employees are truly engaged at work indicates a dire need to increase their participation at work.

Team building games help you bond with your coworkers and create a positive work environment—two factors that can significantly enhance your enjoyment and understanding of your job.

In this article, we’ll list fifteen 5-minute team building activities you can use in your next meeting to re-energize your workforce.

Why are team building activities important?

By implementing a regular schedule of collaborative activities, team building allows your employees to strengthen their communication skills and develop positive interpersonal relationships. It leads to more dedicated employees who trust their managers and coworkers and want to work with them.

The consequences of skipping team building are notable. As employee engagement drops, it reduces an employee’s productivity. It’s one of the reasons why 87% of human resources (HR) managers cite improving employee engagement as the most important training goal.

However, not every organization has the time or resources to attend multiple corporate retreats each year. One way to improve employee engagement is to conduct 5-minute team building activities.

5-minute team building activities can be done at any time, making them excellent for before or after a meeting, as part of a more significant team event, or even on a lunch break. They make it easier for you and your employees to participate—and take some healthy time off from work.

Let’s talk through fifteen simple, fun team building exercises that boost employee engagement in five minutes or less.

5-minute team building activities for bonding

1. Icebreaker questions

What they are: A good icebreaker game should be simple and allow for interactions between all members of the group without feeling forced or awkward. Many of these questions can be part of a larger conversation.

How they help: 5-minute ice breaker questionsare an excellent way to get employees talking to each other. They work well for integrating new hires or new teams into the work environment.

Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, says, “The reason icebreaker questions are my favorite five-minute team building activity is that the instructions are easy, you can do it anywhere without materials, and the questions are highly effective for team building.”

How to pull it off: You can send these as pulse surveys within your Zoom, Slack, or PowerPoint app and wait for the unusual responses to kick in. There are several questions you can ask using this activity. Some include the following:

  • What was your favorite sandwich growing up?
  • What was your favorite TV show and why?
  • What was the best gift you’ve ever received?
  • What’s your favorite genre of music?
  • What’s a weird talent you possess?

2. Share something about your first or worst job

What it is: You can ask the whole team to share their first or worst job experiences. You can ask them to mention what they loved or hated about that experience to encourage team bonding.

How it helps: Emily Sander, Leadership Coach at Next Level Coach, says, “This activity can build rapport between teammates in the meeting itself, but also give them “in’s” or conversation starters for after the team meeting.”

There are several reasons for using this question:

  • It’s easy to think of and answer
  • There’s no pressure to provide a “good” answer
  • It’s informative and interesting
  • It can be memorable and funny

How to pull it off: You can ask directly in an in-person meeting. For remote teams, you can ask the question directly or create an open-ended survey and wait for the answers to roll in.

3. Guess whose life it is?

What it is: You can ask team members to share two photos representing them and their interests ahead of the session. The photo shouldn’t show their face or any identifying features. Then, you can ask their colleagues to guess who it belongs to. Those with the highest number of correct guesses win.

How it helps: It’s an excellent way to bond with colleagues and learn interesting things about them. Sometimes, it might even change your perception of them for the better.

Jo Taylor, Managing Director of Let’s Talk Talent, says, “We understand how important it is to engineer opportunities for team members to bond, deepen relationships and break down silos now that chance encounters over the coffee machine are becoming less frequent.”

How to pull it off: You can create an either/or poll and broadcast it during the activity.

4. Four walls communication

What it is: The team leader writes different modes of work-related interactions like  “face-to-face,” “email,” “phone,” and “chat” on separate pieces of paper. Then, they tape each sheet of paper to a room’s four walls. Now, team members can walk to the wall representing their preferred means of communication and explain why they chose it.

How it helps: According to David Bitton, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of DoorLoop, says, “I adore this activity since it’s quick, easy, and provides a substantial reward. It creates the groundwork for improved communication because each team member knows the other’s communication preferences.”

How to pull it off: If you’re doing it in in-person, you can paste the sheets of paper on four different walls and ask employees to walk towards them. You can create a poll for virtual team building activities and then ask team members to explain why they chose that option.

6. Trading cards

What it is: Coworkers write little-known facts about themselves and share them with their teammates. Based on the information on the card, they can discuss it further to get to know each other and build trust.

How it helps: It’s an engaging way to get to know your teammates while controlling how much information you want to share. Sarah Jameson, Marketing Director at Green Building Elements, says, “Not only is this a fun way to learn more about a coworker, but it’s also a great conversation starter.”

How to pull it off: You can conduct this activity by giving each team member a large-scale index card and marker. Then, they need to design their card by including their name, a self-portrait, a nickname, a superpower, and one lesser-known fact about them.

After this, members will be asked to form pairs, trade cards, and discuss the information found on the cards. Once they’re done, they switch partners until everyone has a chance to talk to each other.

5-minute engagement boosting activities

1. Gartic phone

What it is: The game is similar to charades, but this one can be about any random phrase, not specifically TV shows or movies.

How it helps: When you ask employees to engage in this activity, it helps them tap into their problem-solving side while inculcating team spirit. Sylwia Smietanko, an HR Specialist and Recruiter from Passport Photo Online, says, “Even though it lasts only a few minutes, it’s an occasion to have some fun, enhance cohesion in teams and energize meetings.”

How to pull it off: You can create a collection of random phrases like “unicorn with a ping pong ball as a hat,” or “a green duck wearing a toupee.” Next, you can assign a card to each employee. They need to draw it on a whiteboard. The opposing team members must guess the card within a specified time limit.

2. Team stretches

What it is: 5-minute team stretches are simple stretches everyone can do simultaneously. They require no special equipment, only a little space and a willingness to participate. All participants must do is stretch their bodies using guided sessions.

How it helps: Vartika Kashyap, Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub, says, “Sitting for 9 hours at a stretch has a bad impact on our mental and physical health. This activity helps team members relax and get their creative juices flowing. Doing this also allows the team members to feel at ease around each other, especially the new ones.”

Sitting for long hours locks your body in one position, restricting blood flow and stiffening your muscles. Stretching your muscles regularly can improve vascular function and blood circulation in the body. It also keeps the muscles lean and flexible while relieving tension headaches.

How to pull it off: Gather all your team members and encourage them to stretch their bodies and relieve any underlying pressure. You can do this in in-person or at remote meetings.

3. Would you rather

What it is: It’s a game in which the team members choose between two odd actions. After they choose, they need to justify their choice.

How it helps: Michael Nemeroff, CEO & Co-founder of RushOrderTees says, “These questions always strike up a conversation, and the conversations often keep going after the meeting has ended. It also encourages people to open up a bit more, which can help to break down any barriers between teams as people get to know each other better and on a more personal level.”

How to pull it off: You need to ask light-hearted questions to ensure that nobody feels uncomfortable during the activity. For example, “Would you rather have a rewind button or a pause button on your life?” or “Would you rather explore space or the ocean?”

4. Group meditation

What it is: It’s a guided activity where team members meditate for five minutes.

How it helps: Maximilian Wühr, Co-founder & Chief Growth Officer at FINN, says, “Some team building activities can feel cheesy or forced, but meditation is a great way to destress, improve concentration and connect without the pressure to talk or feel awkward.”

Meditation and mindfulness have a variety of health benefits. Many studies have explored the potential positive effects of meditation. Some include reduced stress and anxiety, reduced blood pressure, and improved sleep quality.

How to pull it off:

  • Ask team members to sit on the floor in a circle
  • Ask them to close their eyes and inhale and exhale every ten seconds
  • Repeat this activity for three to four minutes

You can also conduct this activity in a remote meeting by encouraging team members to meditate at their desk.

5-minute challenge ideas

1. Trivia questions

What they are: Trivia games are theme-focused games where teams answer fact-based questions on specific subjects. For example, you can host trivia sessions on movies like Star Wars or broader themes like geography or art. Here, you can ask specific questions, and the team with the most correct answers wins.

How they help: You can use them as a quick warm-up activity or a creative way to engage people. Sanya Nagpal, Head of Human Resources at Leena AI, says, “It helps rejuvenate employees within that short period and freshen their perspective on the work that they are doing. It acts as a breather amidst serious work.”

How to pull it off: 

  • Divide people into teams with an equal number of members
  • Display a set number of questions related to your theme using a pulse survey
  • Only one team is allowed to answer at one time (if they don’t, they can pass)
  • The team that answers the most questions correctly wins

2. Blackout truth or dare

What it is: The host reads off a prompt like “I dare you to sing a Christmas carol,” and anyone that is not-willing turns off their video or sits down. The host can then choose from the remaining participants to see who will complete the action. A truth equivalent might be “your childhood nickname.”

How they help: Everybody’s familiar with truth or dare—so it acts like an escalated version of the game. It’s a fun activity that creates a mildly competitive atmosphere where employees are highly engaged and on their toes.

How to pull it off: Michael says, “You can do this activity virtually via Zoom or another platform, or in person. You can easily do three rounds in five minutes, making this a fun, fast-paced, and highly engaging activity.” Using Poll Everywhere, you can display prompts and tally the results.

3. Alternative uses for everyday things

What it is: The activity involves finding everyday objects like staplers, notebooks, etc., and asking employees to devise alternative uses for these items.

How it helps: Logan Mallory, Vice President of Marketing, Motivosity, says, “The benefit of this activity for team building is that it’s a truly great icebreaker that helps people connect. It fosters creative thinking and teamwork to come up with an alternate use, and is just in general something fun that everyone seems to enjoy.”

How to pull it off: You can conduct the activity using the following steps:

  • You need to assign people into pairs or large groups and give them an office object like a printer, keyboard, etc.
  • Next, they have to come up with a creative use (that can be anything but its intended use) within a specified time limit.
  • You can conduct this in-person using cards or virtually using polls

4. Say names backward

What it is: Employees say each other’s names backward in this activity. For example, “Sara” would become “Aras.”

How it helps: Kathryn Boudreau, Remote Operations Manager at CallerSmart and Spread Great Ideas, says, “This may sound silly, but it is very much fun and can bring a lot of laughter to the mix. You can explore this among 5-10 people, and guess what! This humor-filled exercise will help you remember someone’s actual name perfectly.”

How to pull it off: All you have to do is pair people up and ask them to say each other’s names backward.

5. 3-minute storytelling competition

What it is: A 3-minute storytelling competition is a group activity that requires team members to develop a story based on an image or a prompt.

How it helps: Carla Andre-Brown, Learning and Development Manager at Mailbird, says, “I think this is a great way for the team to flex their creative muscles, but it also helps engage their listening skills at the beginning of what is going to be a long meeting.”

How to pull it off: You need to follow these steps:

  • Divide your team into small groups
  • Give each group a random photo (for example, a child and a goose taking the subway)
  • Give them three minutes to come up with a story
  • Next, each group shares their stories
  • Finally, people vote for their favorite story

6. Six-word story

What it is: It’s a 5-minute team building activity in which employees describe something in a short six-word story.

How it helps: It encourages team members to get their creative juices flowing and to come up with a six-word story on the spot. Jo says, “You can also use this to get a team to discuss what you think the company stands for and how aligned or wildly different they are.” So, this can also work as an alignment team building exercise.

How to pull it off: Group people together and give them a prompt like, “Describe the company’s goal in a six-word story,” or “Say a joke in six words.”

Final thoughts

Team building activities have a positive effect on the workplace. They can help employees bond, learn more about each other, and clarify their perspectives on work. Ultimately, promoting collaboration and communication creates an engaged workforce.

The bottom line is that company culture is important. An engaged employee is likely to be a productive employee and thus one who contributes to a positive company culture.

If you’ve been thinking about introducing some team building activities into your office to boost morale, this list has some excellent suggestions that are easy enough to either adapt or use as they are. Even a 5-minute interaction with your employees can make a big difference.

If you’re looking to conduct engaging 5-minute team building activities through polls or surveys, sign up for Poll Everywhere today.